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Young & Hungry

Tiffany Dawson’s Rapid Success

Katie Jensen
Katie Jensen
Tiffany Dawson

Even the best of us envy those who achieve success quickly. It’s an absolute gut punch if that success comes from someone young with little to no experience in the mortgage industry while so many others struggle to get by. But few can argue Tiffany Dawson, senior loan officer for New Leaf Funding, doesn’t deserve it.

A California native, Dawson, 36, joined the industry as an originator at the start of 2022, and was able to complete 24 loans within her first year — a notable feat considering how turbulent that market was, with interest rates shooting up and inventory bottoming out. That sudden change shook the earth beneath most originators’ feet, but not Dawson’s. In recognition of that, after less than a year in the industry she was promoted to senior loan officer by her sales manager Stacy Brian.

“She’s better than 97% of the loan officers currently in our office,” Brian said. “She came in during a time when the market was slowing and, you know, she never had anything handed to her — she’s hungry. Other loan officers get complacent, because doing refinances is easy. She’s a great example of what to do and what attitude to take when things get tough.”

For Dawson there was an early recognition of how the market was changing.

“I knew the market was shifting,” Dawson said. “We were still in COVID, so it was going to be different than any other market. I also knew rates were going up, so the refi market was dying. That's why my focus became purchasing.”

All but one loan Dawson originated last year were purchases for first-time homebuyers. They are her target audience, because her goal is keep those clients coming back for every transaction they make until they decide to finish their portfolio.

When Dawson told her colleagues that her goal was to make six figures in her first year, they shared their doubts, likely thinking this naive woman had no idea how brutal this industry can be.

“I shocked a lot of folks in my brokerage,” Dawson said. “Some of them had to apologize because they definitely pumped some negative thoughts in my mind at the very beginning when I told them what my goal was for the year. And, you know, I surpassed some of them.”

Well, those colleagues certainly learned their lesson about underestimating newcomers, and soon others will, too.


Investor Pipe Dreams

Dawson gathered most of her knowledge about the real estate market as a young investor. She bought her first home at 22 years old, with no help from family members or friends. In today’s market, that’s pretty much unheard of, but Dawson is making this possible for her young clients as well.

“I used to cry about it. I didn't think it was possible,” Dawson said. “I would talk to a lot of homeowners, whether they were in my family or in my business circle, and just knew that it was something I had to work towards. I had to start with what I could start with, which happened to be a condo.”

Dawson purchased her first home, a condo, in Paramount City, which was not at all where she expected to live. But it’s what she and her then-boyfriend, now husband, could afford at the time, which is a lesson she often reiterates to her clients today.

“We purchased that property, lived there for a couple of years, and some people call it ‘house hacking.’ We used the FHA loan to get our first property, which then in turn became an investment property,” Dawson said.

Dawson then moved into a single-family home in Carson, Calif. Her tenants paid the mortgage on the condo while she covered her new mortgage. About 11 years later, she decided it was time to sell.

“The advice that I was always given with selling real estate is do not sell real estate unless you're taking that money to buy something bigger and better. So that's what we did,” Dawson said. “We made close to $300,000 in profit off of that one condo. And we reinvested in single- family homes, also in California.”

The pandemic real estate boom also did Dawson many favors. Although rates were low, many people told her to wait for the crash and pointed out the moratorium on tenants paying rent made the landlord’s job harder. But Dawson said she’s lucky she did because she’s made nearly half a million in equity from her single-family home and the garage conversions.

While she was building up her investor portfolio, Dawson was working a full-time job as an HR manager for a nonprofit, Crystal Stairs. In 2021, she had earned enough rental profit to replace her income, then jumped into being a loan officer full-time.

It was her own loan officer, Stacy Brian, now her sales manager for New Leaf Funding, who brought her into the industry in the first place. Dawson started referring a bunch of homebuyers to Brian, and eventually Brian suggested that she should become a loan officer herself. No one anticipated, however, how rapidly she would rise to success.

Making Mini Dawsons

Although Dawson muscled through her real estate investing career and now her loan officer career without much guidance, she’s determined to be a mentor for anyone else chasing that dream — even her 4-year-old daughter.

Dawson said her young daughter is very into real estate and they often go to open houses together.

“If our contractors are working, she goes up to them, calls them by name, and asks them what they're working on,” Dawson said. “Or if she knows there's a task that needs to be completed, she'll ask them when they'll be complete or when they're starting that one. So I'm training her in that way, but that's not something that I personally had.”

Working with young people is Dawson’s passion. Last year, she helped two young men, ages 25 and 26, buy a duplex, and this year she managed to finance their next property, a single-family home. This was essentially the same “house hacking” strategy Dawson used to start her own real estate investing career.

Specifically, Dawson seeks out “folks who have their head on straight,” meaning they're in a stable career, they’re ready to save money, and they have good credit — essentially, the same position she was in at 22 years old.

According to Modex, nearly half of her borrowers are FHA; all of them make anywhere between $60K to $120K a year.

“A lot of them don't have a ton of money coming into it,” Dawson said. “Credit has been all over the spectrum. I've had the low end, the high end, but they're not trust fund babies or anything like that. No one's getting gift funds. They're just hard-working people that are trying to accomplish something, and they're willing to be coachable and get to the finish line with me.”


Tiffany Dawson

A Sudden & Unexpected Following

Although Dawson did not actively seek out Black homebuyers to work with, she was delighted to find that many of them were gravitating toward her. Initially, she was just happy to be getting clients, but she eventually realized what a strong connection she had with the Black community.

Dawson suspects these homebuyers like to work with someone who is also Black and have an easier time building trust with someone similar to them. But, another important aspect in how she gained this following, was through the education and training programs she offers to consumers.

“We're further behind when it comes to financial literacy and having wealth as a whole,” Dawson said. “A lot of that has to do with access and just overall information.”

Recently, Dawson was on an investor call and every single person on that call was Black, which Dawson was proud to see. What she was not proud of, however, was the fact that the lady hosting the call wanted $30,000 from each person to help them become investors.

“Most of the folks on there have said they had never purchased a primary home before and that they didn't have credit. They didn't have money, they were trying to figure it out, and she recommended business funding for them to be able to pay her so she could tell them how to do it. And I was like, that is crazy!” Dawson said. “So I want to help those folks who are willing and ready to learn the information, and get it for free.”

Dawson also believes that being Black herself allows them to trust her. She knows exactly how those people feel; she was once a young woman trying to do something totally different, something her family has never done before. She knows what it’s like going up to someone in a suit who doesn’t look like anyone she would usually speak to and having to express all her concerns to him. It’s scary, because that person may not understand her challenges or her situation.

“So I wanted to make sure that I was a regular person,” Dawson said. “When you go on my Instagram, I'm not in a suit and tie, like I have on leggings and sweats. Like I'm a regular girl from the city.”

In fact, most of Dawson’s client base comes from Instagram (@TiffanytheLender), where she has over 4,000 followers. One particular young lady, Danielle, formerly worked with Dawson at Target and reached out to her on Instagram, saying she was very impressed with Dawson’s career and wants to be just like her when she grows up. Danielle asked what she needed to do to make that happen, and Dawson was ready to be her guide. They worked on paying off her debt, saving her money, then got her into a single-family home all by herself.


Take It From Dawson

Dawson’s Instagram also gained the recognition of other loan originators, one of whom she is currently mentoring.

“I've built a pretty decent following on Instagram … and they're directed straight to my personal website,” Dawson said. “I really wanted to focus on self-branding, especially when I first started, because obviously New Leaf is not my company. At some point I will make one, but I will still be Tiffany The Lender, under my company, not so much promoting someone else's.”

Dawson’s mentorship program for mortgage loan originators teaches them how to get more leads, create personal brands, create content for social media, so they, too, can have a goal of six figures in a year.

Tiffany Dawson

Unlike some sales coaches, Dawson is a successful producer and knows what the homebuying process is like as a first-timer and an investor.

“You might have loan officers or Realtors who don't really own real estate or don't really have a portfolio, and I get that people have to be in an industry to make money and get there. But I also find it difficult that you could truly lead someone in something that you haven't experienced yourself,” Dawson said.

She is currently mentoring two originators, one being a dual licensed agent and originator who does, in fact, own a home. Dawson has a whole list of topics mentees can choose to focus on, such as content creation, presence, and branding. She’s also willing to assist originators with any questions they may have, which is a big help for those who work remotely and have no one else to turn to. A few times, Dawson has even sat in on a three-way call with the originator and client to help answer questions. It’s still the mentee’s client, Dawson confirms, she’s just there to provide support.

Even the naysayers at her own brokerage have asked Dawson for advice after seeing how successful she was in 2022.

“The refi business was ending, and folks were so used to the leads just pouring in,” Dawson said. “The folks in my office, they started coming up to me like, ‘Hey, what are you doing now? What, what's going on? What do I need to do? How can I change? How can I get this business that you have?’”

If Dawson’s success teaches us anything, it’s not to underestimate these newcomers. While everyone was stuffing themselves with refi money during the pandemic house boom, originators like Dawson were gearing up for the market shift. Now she’s on top of her game in purchases, making six figures a year, and building up a real estate portfolio that will be worth millions one day.

Although Dawson lacks experience, her hunger for success makes up for it ten-fold. Ultimately, her story proves that even newer originators who have entered the market during or after the pandemic housing boom, are as capable as anyone to reach success.

“It is going to take work,” Dawson said, “but it will pay off.”

This article was originally published in the California Broker July 2023 issue.
Katie Jensen
Katie Jensen,
Staff Writer
Published on
Jul 26, 2023
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